November 30: Advent of the Leeds super-station

ONE OF the biggest criticisms made of high-speed rail is that, while it is all very well transporting passengers from city to city at ever higher velocities, any advantage is soon negated if the stations are badly sited and public transport within the cities themselves is not up to scratch.

One obvious example was the proposal to build a new HS2 station south of the River Aire in Leeds, leaving passengers to walk to Leeds City station to connect with the planned HS3 trans-Pennine rail link.

This is one of the reasons why the plan, announced today, to integrate the new HS2 line into the existing station, allowing travellers to alight in the heart of the city, makes so much sense. Another reason, of course, is the commercial impetus which such a major improvement will give to the city and the wider region.

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Leeds City is already the second busiest station in the UK outside London and, once it is transformed into the so-called Yorkshire Hub, it will not only be a huge boost to rail transport across the North, it will also become a focus for investment in Leeds and beyond.

Clearly, this will be a key part of the Government’s Northern Powerhouse and hopefully sooner rather than later. But there is much more that must be sorted out before the region can reap the full advantages of high-speed rail.

Although a decision has been made for Leeds, there is still confusion in Sheffield over whether the proposed HS2 station will be at Meadowhall or whether it, too, will be in the city centre.

Then there is the public-transport problem within Leeds itself, with the much-vaunted trolleybus project still the focus of fierce argument.

Meanwhile, the Government needs to be much clearer on when and now the HS2 and HS3 rail networks will fit together so that the entire North of England is properly connected.

These tasks would become easier, of course, if there could be an end to equivocation about a devolution deal for Leeds and the remainder of Yorkshire – and even easier if petty local squabbling could be resolved in favour of a Yorkshire-wide solution.

Growing problem, but is sugar tax the answer?

AS THE calls for a tax on sugar grow ever louder, how long can the Government continue to resist?

The latest voice added to the chorus is that of the Commons Health Committee which says that, if there is to be any hope of combating the obesity crisis among young people, sugary drinks must be taxed.

However, although Britain now has one of the highest child-obesity rates in Europe, while diabetes levels have doubled in 20 years, these trends have not coincided with rising sugar consumption. On the contrary, consumption of sugar, salt and fat has been steadily falling for the past four decades.

This suggests that the rise in obesity is caused not by eating more and more calories but by a huge decline in physical activity, particularly among the young.

The MPs’ report says that the Government cannot rely on promoting exercise to reduce obesity, yet the facts contradict this.

Of course, the dangers of excess sugar need to be pointed out and the true levels of sugar in foodstuffs must be made graphically clear through accurate labelling.

But, rather than the easy solution of a sugar tax – which would, in any case, disproportionately affect the poor – the answer to Britain’s expanding waistlines is to encourage young people to become far more active, even though this will be a much more difficult measure to impose.

Heroes all. A glorious weekend for sport

AN INVALUABLE aid, of course, in stimulating young people to become more involved in sport is the provision of successful role models.

And while Britain has struggled in this rather too often in recent years, the nation’s victory in tennis’s Davis Cup completed a golden weekend for British sport as, an astonishing 79 years since Britain last held the trophy, Andy Murray’s triumph put British tennis on top of the world once again.

It is almost as rare for Britain to have a heavyweight boxing champion, yet Tyson Fury has added his name to an exclusive list by defeating one of the greatest of them all in Wladimir Klitschko.

And to complete a remarkable weekend, Yorkshire’s own Jamie Vardy scored in his 11th consecutive Premier League match to set a new footballing record.

For anyone wanting to get involved in sport, weekends rarely come more inspiring than this.